Home Your medical guide How to Exercise Safely in Ramadan (5 Expert Strategies)

How to Exercise Safely in Ramadan (5 Expert Strategies)

written by Vidya Sury April 3, 2024
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There are several measures you can take to exercise safely in Ramadan if you are fasting, and make physical activity a more comfortable experience during this time, besides keeping in mind a few warning signs.

Whether it’s keeping fit, athletic training, or participating in school sports, preparation is key to staying safe, cool, and comfortable, according to an athletic trainer at Cleveland Clinic Sports Medicine, who works with many young athletes as part of the health system’s outreach program.

While we don’t always have control over when or how we exercise, particularly in the case of competitive athletes, full-time employees, and school children, we can focus on making the right food and drink choices in non-fasting hours, taking breaks, staying cool, and knowing when to stop.

For those who can choose when to exercise, there are no hard and fast rules. It’s a matter of finding out what works best for you. In general, exercising before sunrise or close to sunset is a good idea so there is time to refuel and rehydrate afterwards.

However, exercising late at night might impact an individual’s sleep cycle, and not everyone can wake up very early.

Here are five guidelines to help everyone who is keeping up their fitness routine this month.

Exercise safely in Ramadan 5 expert tips

5 things to keep in mind to exercise safely in Ramadan

1. Focus on quality, not quantity

Be kind to yourself. Remember that the body takes time to adjust to new eating and sleeping patterns. Focus on quality rather than quantity. Take plenty of breaks when needed, and don’t push yourself too hard. Ensure that you get adequate rest at night, and if needed, take a nap after a strenuous exercise session.

2. Eat a balanced diet

Ensure that you eat balanced meals. It is very important not to skip suhoor. Both suhoor and iftar should include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Consider taking a good multivitamin to ensure you are getting all your nutrients. Potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium can help to prevent muscle cramps, while B vitamins are energy boosters.

Focus on rehydrating foods at meal times. Avoid salty foods and include those with high water content, for example fruit such as watermelons, apples, pears, and vegetables such as cucumbers.

If you are an athlete who needs to consume large amounts of protein and calories, add energy bars or protein supplements, but don’t have these as meal replacements. Read the labels carefully and avoid highly processed products that contain artificial additives, excessive sugars, and refined carbohydrates.

3. Rehydrate sufficiently

Drink more liquid than usual to prevent dehydration during the day, so that you are consuming up to a liter of liquid in the mornings with suhoor. In addition to water, drinks containing electrolytes can help to address imbalances caused by exertion, and milk and fruit juices are acceptable choices too. Avoid caffeinated beverages, including teas, coffees and sodas as far as possible as they are diuretics.

If you play sports or work out heavily, the guideline is to replace 100% of sweat lost during exercise with liquid. During warmer weather or more strenuous workouts, it’s a good idea to weigh yourself daily. This will help you to get an idea of how much sweat you lose during practice and determine how much fluid you need to replace this. Try and drink around one liter of water for each kilogram lost.

Rehydrate to exercise safely in Ramadan

4. Keep cool and get enough rest

Strategies for keeping cool while exercising outdoors, especially in humid conditions, include taking frequent breaks in the shade or indoors. During breaks, you can pour cold water over yourself, or hold ice towels or an ice bag against your neck, stomach and upper legs.

After training, take a cool shower or bath as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to pack extra clothes so that you can change directly after exercising, rather than staying in gym clothes that cling to you and retain the sweat.

5. Know the warning signs

The risks of exercising too intensely during Ramadan include heat cramps, where the muscles can feel tight and painful, as well as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

To exercise safely in Ramadan, ensure that your coach or trainer knows that you are fasting, and don’t dismiss any symptoms. If at any time you are cramping up, feel overheated, lightheaded, weak, or nauseous, or have hot, dry skin, you need to stop your activity immediately and seek help if needed.

It is particularly important to keep a close eye on young children who are exercising and might not be as self-aware as older children or adults.

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